He was selected by branch members on Sunday to contest the Northern Metropolitan region at the November 26 state election, ousting Ondarchie from the upper house seat after more than a decade.
He has previously described federal Labor’s 45 per cent by 2030 emissions target as “a disaster”, while suggesting people arguing for “economy-destroying climate targets” and “endless subsidisation of intermittent and unreliable renewable energy” represent an elite who take mainstream Australians for fools.
The position puts him at odds with Guy, who earlier this month announced plans to halve emissions by 2030 and legislate the target in a new climate policy as part of a push to strengthen the Coalition’s credentials on the environment before the November election.
The target places the state Liberal Party’s official climate policy on an equal footing with state Labor, and is an even more ambitious policy than the Labor federal government’s. Guy has also adopted a target of net zero emissions by 2050.
On Sunday, Guy said Deeming was entitled to her views, accusing Premier Daniel Andrews of trying to whip up fear that the Coalition would change the state’s abortion laws.
“In the Liberal Party, we actually pride ourselves on people having different points of view, having respectful discussions about what might be a commonality and how we move forward,” Guy said.
“I’ll tell you straight out, we’ve said there will be no change in legislation, we never said we’ll change laws on those issues, but of course the Labor Party will try and whip that up.”
A senior Liberal Party source, prohibited by party rules from speaking publicly about preselection matters, said there was little surprise Ondarchie had been ousted. He said branch members, who in the Liberal Party are solely responsible for selecting candidates, were “looking for someone who had a bit of policy principle”, including the “backbone” to speak out against climate change targets.
“Matthew’s position on climate change took people by surprise, and they weren’t thrilled about it,” the senior source said.
Another Liberal source, also unable to publicly comment, said the party might begin to regret expelling Finn “because Moira [Deeming] is even more extreme”. The source said Mulholland should not be compared to Deeming, given he was focused on policy rather than socially divisive issues.
The federal Liberal party recently found itself battling accusations of bigotry when prime minister Scott Morrison selected anti-trans activist Katherine Deves in the inner-city seat of Warringah. She lost to the incumbent, “teal” independent Zali Steggall.
In a four-cornered preselection contest on Sunday, Ondarchie was knocked out in the first round of voting, with Mulholland easily winning a second round with 32 votes, followed by Liberal Party treasurer Owen Guest on 15 votes and Catriona Rafael, who was previously a staffer to former treasurer and opposition leader Michael O’Brien, on 14.
After the vote on Sunday, Ondarchie said the selection process was “democratic and fair”.
“I respect the result and truly thank the people of Melbourne’s north for the honour and privilege of representing them,” he said.
Mulholland declined to comment, under party rules.
Former member for Chisholm Gladys Liu made an unsuccessful bid for preselection in the North-East Metropolitan region. A former staffer for Ted Baillieu, Nick McGowan, was selected for the winnable second spot.
Tony Barry, a former senior Liberal staffer who is now with political consulting outfit RedBridge, said he believed Mulholland and McGowan would make a good contribution, saying it was encouraging that Mulholland and Rafael got more than two-thirds of the vote in the first round.
“But it is still apparent that other Liberal branch members need to take responsibly for preselecting better candidates, particularly young professional women who share the values of mainstream voters,” Barry said.
The premier said Deeming’s views represented an attempt to weaponise political debates and an attempt to campaign on the worst elements of fear and prejudice.
“If you’re trans in this state, you’re five times more likely to self-harm than if you’re not,” Andrews said.
“That is a very serious issue. And that’s why we should do everything we can to support every single Victorian, particularly those for whom just being who they are, is not easy. It’s very, very challenging.”
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